Friday, January 13, 2012

Jesus > Religion: Some Thoughts on the Bethke Video Chaos

If you can answer in the affirmative to being alive and within the stream of Evangelical Christianity, then you have most likely seen the following video:

And, if you scuttle around the blogosphere you will have most likely seen not a few critiques of this video. However, the critique that I linked actually brought about more frustration than the video did (I think I would prefer you to read Kevin DeYoung's critique or Jared Wilson’s critique instead).

There is a certain sense of arrogance-laced theological one-upmanship that is becoming the pervasive norm within the blogosphere (some might even argue that what I am attempting to do here feeds the problem). One particular introspective moment I had after reading Fitzgerald’s post was how I often find myself desiring to critique (wherein my focus is on finding anything negative within the argument/discussion/message/idea), instead of, rather, focusing on the positive aspect(s) of said argument/discussion/message/idea.

So, instead of critiquing Fitzgerald’s post (which it could certainly stand to have – oops), or instead of critiquing the video itself (which has already been done ad nauseam), in this instance, I want to briefly reflect on three parts of agreement with Bethke’s video.

1. And just because you call some people blind, doesn't automatically give you vision...

My fear is that this statement is more true than we recognize. My fear is that within, primarily, American Evangelicalism we have those within the varied theological streams using their theological one-upmanship or pseudo-biblical understanding to mask their inability to see their own blindness (Luke 6:39), or to portray themselves as pure, when they are, in fact, not (Matt. 23:27-28). May God grant me the grace to repent when I see this particular sin within my own life.

2. See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core. It's just behavior modification, like a long list of chores...

The core is sin; which leads to the need, which is new life in Jesus Christ. Jesus came (at least in part) to redeem a people and provide for them an opportunity for transformation. Moralism, which is probably the better term to use (instead of religion), can only offer behavior modification; it can only offer the "10 steps to a more fulfilled life." But moralism lacks eternal significance. Christ and what he accomplished at the cross is what we ought to focus on, not behavior modification.

3. See because religion says do, Jesus says done...

Now, this depends; if Bethke is insinuating that religion is the means by which we are accepted by Christ, than the separation is appropriate (Eph. 2:8-9); however, we ought to also remember that Christ has called us to obedience (Matt. 28:20). Moreover, I believe that one of the most over-looked themes in the New Testament is that of patronage (see David deSilva's excellent work Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture). Patrons would often extend an unwarranted gift to a patronee, but then would expect some type of return, which, if not reciprocated would have led to a great offense for the patron and shame on the patronee. In short, if Eph. 2:8-9 describe how "religion" does not provide any salvific efficacy, Eph. 2:10 describes the importance of "religion" in the post-conversion life.

In sum, there is much to say both positively and negatively in regards to this video and its varied responses. My hope is that we would learn to not necessarily retreat from disagreement, but that we would, rather, look to affirm truth and disagree with charity.

1 comment:

  1. DeYoung makes a good point:
    “The strengths in this poem are the strengths I see in many young Christians – a passionate faith, a focus on Jesus, a love for grace, and a hatred for anything phony or self-righteous …. The weaknesses here can be the weaknesses of my generation (and younger) – not enough talk of repentance and sanctification, a tendency to underestimate the importance of obedience in the Christian life, a one-dimensional view of grace, little awareness that our heavenly Father might ever discipline his children or be grieved by their continued transgression…”
    However, I would recommend “The End of Religion” by Bruxy Cavey for more clarity on the reality of Jesus fulfilling religion, as it is understood by the contemporary secular person. I would also recommend “Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship” by Alan Hirsch & Debra Hirsch.
    The truly reformed church is always reforming, and many believe that we are on the verge of re-reformation with a less domesticated Christianity and a more Jesus-like lifestyle. The present day church is not well, broadly speaking, and some radical re-thinking and re-imagining what it means to be a Christ follower is happening. Let’s embrace it!